The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 4, 2013

Our View: Holiday Lights lit up the winter

The Free Press

— Thumbs up

To the organizers and volunteers who made the Kiwanis Holiday Lights display happen. The new holiday attraction lit up Sibley Park and the faces of its visitors from Thanksgiving until New Year’s Eve.

The display was a giant undertaking as proven by these numbers: more than 100,000 people viewed the display that featured 1 million LED lights; more than 30,000 vehicles motored through the park; more than 1,000 volunteers offered assistance; more than 12 tons of food were donated to area food shelves; and at least three marriages were proposed before the display.

The response to the attraction was immense and the region is lucky that the plan is to do the display next year with additional features.

Not only did the project bring holiday cheer to those who saw it, but it was a community effort that brought a lot of people and nonprofits together to get a big job done. The charitable giving part of the project is an important one during a time of year when food shelves are in great demand.

Thumbs down

U of M fails Fiscal Management 101

To the University of Minnesota’s rapid salary and spending run-up at a time students are getting hit harder for tuition costs.

The Wall Street Journal reported that the U of M’s administrative payroll has gone up three times as fast as the teaching payroll and twice as fast as student enrollment.

Some 81 administrators make $200,000 per year or more. And the university has spent $10 million in recent years on consultants for a housing development that is decades from completion.

In the meantime, tuition has more than doubled in that same period, to more than $13,000 per year.

The bloating of administrative ranks and excessive spending is not isolated to the U of M and is fueled by a lack of accountability and the fact taxpayers fund grants going to students allowing for escalating tuition charges.

 As state and federal budgets continue to contract and many private businesses are forced to cut back, public universities need more self-control and more public and government scrutiny and oversight.

Thumbs up

Sanford reaches out to Native Americans

To Sanford Health, the largest rural nonprofit hospital system, for hiring two traditional Native American healers to advise its medical staff and offer training on how better to serve American Indian patients in Minnesota and the Dakotas.

The healers won’t be conducting healing ceremonies but will be developing training and curriculum about the Native American culture that may assist the traditional medical professionals in their treatment of those patients. The healers may also advise when a traditional ceremony may be necessary.

The Sanford group will establish the program as part of a three-year, $12 million grant from the federal government’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. They will hire Lakota/Dakota and Ojibwe personnel to act as consultants in the program.

Some of the blending of Indian medicine with traditional medicine is related to spiritual beliefs. In some cases, for example, women who must have a C-section birth may want to be blessed by a traditional medicine man first.

The effort a bridging cultures and understanding traditional beliefs about medicine can be a significant healing factor in and of itself. Sanford is doing something that may indeed improve outcomes and patient satisfaction.

Thumbs up

Good to see competition in House race

To real competition in the District 19A House legislative race. In what was a cakewalk for the DFL in Minnesota House 19A last election, now is wide open race with a special election, the date of which has yet to be announced.

DFL Rep. Terry Morrow, after winning with no opposition in the 2012 election, announced he was leaving to take a job in Chicago. Morrow was a pretty entrenched legislator in a district with much of Nicollet County, including St. Peter, North Mankato and Nicollet. Since his announcement, six candidates — three DFL, one Independence and two Republicans — have thrown their hats in the ring.

This speaks well for the people of District 19A who will have a choice amid the competition for representation. Competition can bring out the best and worst of a candidate giving voters better opportunity to choose who they want representing their interests.